“I want to clear my conscience,” Landis said. “I don’t want to be part of the problem any more.
Just a quick post to bring to your attention the following big news from cycling. The Wall Street Journal (I only point this out because the WSJ is one of the most respected papers around, not a tabloid, because had I seen this elsewhere, I’d be skeptical) is reporting that Floyd Landis has sent a series of emails to officials within US Cycling and the IOC in which he has:
- Admitted to doping. He says that he began with testosterone patches, then progressed to blood transfusions, EPO, and a liquid steroid, taken orally. Upon leaving the US Postal team in 2006, he requested support from his new team, Phonak, to continue the same blood doping programme. The Phonak manager, Andy Riis, is alleged to have provided funding to do this.
- Alleged extensive doping, as well as encouraged doping from Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel. He explains how on training rides, Armstrong would explain the process, how to avoid detection and what worked and how.His reported words were: “In the same email, Mr. Landis wrote that after breaking his hip in 2003, he flew to Girona, Spain—a training hub for American riders—and had two half-liter units of blood extracted from his body in three-week intervals to be used later during the Tour de France. The extraction, Mr. Landis claimed, took place in Mr. Armstrong’s apartment, where blood bags belonging to Mr. Armstrong and his then-teammate George Hincapie were kept in a refrigerator in Mr. Armstrong’s closet. Mr. Landis said he was asked to check the temperature of the blood daily. According to Mr. Landis, Mr. Armstrong left for a few weeks and asked Mr. Landis to make sure the electricity didn’t go off and ruin the blood. George Hincapie, through a spokesman, denied the allegations”.
- Called anti-doping processes a “charade”. He claims that he once helped team-mates Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie take EPO before a Tour of California race, and explained in his emails how this was possible without being caught.
And CyclingNews have what seems to be the actual emails written by Floyd Landis, though I can’t vouch for their authenticity. And then just in, ESPN have actually interviewed Landis and obtained his confession independently. That piece, along with initial and predictable responses from the UCI, can be read here.
The implication – same revelations, different context?
There is obviously much to be said on this latest allegation. Allegation is nothing new in cycling, of course. But these kinds of allegations have historically been made by bike mechanics, physiotherapists, and disgruntled team-mates or rivals who usually are dismissed as having a hidden agenda or financial incentive to do so.
In Landis’ case, it’s not clear what the purpose may be. It must be pointed out that WSJ had been unable to obtain comment from any of the other cyclists or men named in the emails – Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Rihs, Bruyneel and Armstrong all could not be reached.
Also, the WSJ have stated that the claims could not be independently verified. However, I know the WSJ and the reporter who did the piece, and I know them both to be quality sources, and so I would take these allegations very seriously indeed. ESPN have also obtained the same confession telephonically, so at least we know it is not a hoax with someone else passing themselves off as Landis. In Landis’ words, the confession comes because he was suffering psychologically from years of deceit, and that he had become a cycling pariah (if he thought he was a pariah, he’s now entering a whole new world of being shunned by cycling by alleging others’ involvement. The UCI, Armstrong and others will be vicious in their condemnation of Landis).
What is most striking is that disclosure in cycling is very rare from within the sport. Landis is the highest profile rider to confess, and also his confession comes off years and years of denial. That alone is enough to spark curiosity, maybe even skepticism, regarding the motives and reasons for the confessions.
I’m sure the story will have legs. I hope it does. This kind of admission is long, long overdue, and if it can be verified (which is the next step), then it should be taken very seriously indeed. Floyd Landis offers cycling the prospect of disclosure. We wrote a piece on doping in cycling recently, and a number of readers were very defensive, saying that cycling has done the most to combat the problem, and had cleaned up its act.
Floyd Landis has called those efforts a “charade”. I agree with him (or whoever alleges he said it), because cycling’s current efforts to clean the sport have been driven by market forces, nothing else. The sport began to clean up when the media and sponsors started to say that they had had enough. Then, spurred by the financial threat of lost sponsorship and media exposure, efforts were made to clean up a problem that before had been dismissed as “small”. Certain federations stood alone in their genuine attempts to keep the sport clean, but from the top, it was indeed a charade.
I hope that Landis’ claims, if they can be verified, drive further efforts in that regard, and they are not dismissed as being “sour grapes” or “tabloid journalism”. Indeed, this has already begun to happen. We’ve just received a mail from Joe, with this link, in which Pat McQuaide (the head of the UCI, who, incidentally, is the man who denied that cycling had a doping problem until all its money started retreating and the media refused to cover it) has said the following:
“What’s his agenda? The guy is seeking revenge. It’s sad, it’s sad for cycling. It’s obvious he does hold a grudge.” McQuaid said he received copies of the e-mails sent by Landis to the U.S. cycling federation, but declined to comment on their contents. He said Landis’ allegations were “nothing new. He already made those accusations in the past,” McQuaid said. “Armstrong has been accused many times in the past but nothing has been proved against him. And in this case, I have to question the guy’s credibility. There is no proof of what he says. We are speaking about a guy who has been condemned for doping before a court.”
Let us not pull any punches here – Pat McQuaid is as much part of cycling’s problem as Armstrong, Bruyneel and others are alleged to be. As the highest ranking person in the sport, his response should surely be to investigate the allegations, regardless of their source, and then to make an extreme statement afterwards. If the allegations are true, then he must act, and act very, very seriously. If they are shown to be false, then he must act to condemn the slander and to defend the image of the sport.
Instead, what we have from this poisonous organization is a response that simply dismisses the allegations, just as they have done in the past. It is not the first time the response has been such, and it will continue in this vein, particularly from Armstrong, who has in the past ripped into high-quality journalists like David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, for their efforts to expose cycling’s cancer (and yes, I use that word with full understanding of its historical implications in the context of this debate).
Time will tell what emerges from this article, but I am hopeful it is further revelation. Who else will stand up and be counted?